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France prohibits wearing ethnic garments in schools * France takes on new wave of anti-semitism in schools

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  • Joseph M. Hochstein
    Ha aretz, Sunday, March 02, 2003 France prohibits wearing ethnic garments in schools By Daniel Ben Simon
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2003
      Ha'aretz, Sunday, March 02, 2003
      France prohibits wearing ethnic garments in schools
      By Daniel Ben Simon

      Students in France won't be allowed to wear any garments
      indicating their ethnic community as part of a new plan the
      French education ministry is implementing this week.

      Teachers will also be required to report every anti-Semitic or
      racist incident to the authorities.

      The French government aims to stop growing ethnic segregation.
      "We will have to send very explicit warning signals to clarify
      that we are determined to impart the values of the Republic (of
      France) in our schools," Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has
      said, expressing the hope that the new plan will be a powerful
      tool in the fight against schoolhouse anti-Semitism and racism.

      The program is designed to fight violence and eliminate the
      possibility of parochial school programs. Former education
      minister Jack Lang expressed unequivocal support for the ban on
      the Muslim head cover.

      Over the past two years, violence against students because of
      their religious beliefs or cultural affiliation has mounted.
      Jewish students wearing the Star of David were beaten and
      humiliated, Muslim students were struck by classmates, threatened
      and forced to break their Ramadan fast.

      According to one Jewish teacher in a Paris suburb, attacks on
      Jewish students at school have intensified since the start of the
      second intifada. Sometimes, violence starts even as they leave
      their house, sometimes on the bus to school. Most incidents take
      place during recess, with students of North African descent
      picking on, cursing and even hitting Jewish students.

      "The second intifada and September 11 have broken the
      anti-Semitic barriers," the teacher told Le Monde. "I am very
      concerned by the anti-Semitic behavior of some of the students,
      but I am even more worried because non-Jewish teachers refuse to
      acknowledge this problem, leaving the Jewish teachers isolated,"
      he noted.

      Sylvie, a teacher who has been working with students of North
      African descent for 16 years, sees things differently. She
      teaches economics and political science, and has never
      encountered special problems except on the part of French
      society, which refuses to let her students integrate.

      "My students have only one concern," said Sylvie, who declined to
      give her last name. "They want to succeed. The fact that they are
      not integrated into French society is due to the reluctance of
      this society to accept them. It is true that they use bad
      language, but is this racism? Sometimes they argue with me about
      grades, and say: `you don't like Arabs, right?', but I think they
      say that without thinking. In our school, Jewish teachers don't
      come to work on their religious holidays. The Arab students know
      and respect that."

      Either way, concerns of communalism have prompted Raffarin's new
      government to take action before it is too late. Immediately
      after his reelection, President Jacques Chirac announced his
      intention to enhance French education and wipe out any trace of
      communalism, which the French perceive as a substantial threat to
      the fiber of society. Newly appointed education minister, Luc
      Ferry, an intellectual and writer, was therefore requested to
      submit a plan to stop communal phenomena in schools.

      The problem is particularly potent in suburbs and poorer
      neighborhoods, which are home to large communities of North
      African immigrants. In these places, the education system is on
      the verge of destruction. "If things go on like this, eventually
      they will be teaching in Arabic in the Muslim quarters," said a
      teacher who lives near Barbes, an area in Paris where many North
      Africans live.


      France takes on new wave of anti-semitism in schools

      Minister fears a war in Iraq could exacerbate tension between
      Muslim and Jewish communities

      Jon Henley in Paris

      Saturday March 1, 2003
      The Guardian

      France began an effort to stamp out anti-semitism and racism in
      its schools yesterday, fearing that a war in Iraq could seriously
      heighten the tension between its Muslim and Jewish communities.
      The education minister, Luc Ferry, said regional cells would be
      set up to monitor and respond to anti-semitic and racist acts by
      schoolchildren and help schools address the problem, adding that
      teachers would no longer be allowed to turn a blind eye to the
      harassment of Jewish pupils.

      "There is a trivialisation of anti-semitism that worries us, a
      new wave of anti-semitism that is being tolerated by certain
      adults," he said.

      "We cannot let things go on like this and the imminence of a
      possible war in Iraq is not going to help matters."

      Mr Ferry said terms like "dirty Jew" and "Alien Sharon" were now
      popular playground insults, and that the adjective "Jewish" was
      used in "all sorts of unacceptable contexts: a 'Jewish pen' is a
      pen that does not work, and playing 'Jewish catch' is playing

      France's 5 million Muslims and 650,000 Jews, both the biggest
      communities of their kind in Europe, have been put under severe
      strain in the past two years by the surge in Middle East violence
      since the second Palestinian uprising began.

      Scores of anti-Jewish attacks were recorded last year, including
      several firebombings of synagogues and insults and assaults on

      In schools, most of the 455 racist and anti-semitic incidents
      reported in the first term this year involved insults, offensive
      graffiti and vandalism. Physical violence is rare.

      The French media have highlighted such recent incidents as an
      11-year-old Jewish boy in Paris forced to change schools after
      relentless bullying by Arab pupils and a history teacher showered
      with paper pellets when he tried to teach a class about the

      One Jewish teacher at a Paris secondary school, who asked not to
      be named, said that last year "for the first time in 19 years of
      teaching, a 14-year-old Muslim girl refused to let me correct her
      work. I had to give her higher marks than she deserved to keep
      her quiet".

      Sociologists say that youths whose parents emigrated from
      France's former north African colonies and who often live in grim
      high-rise suburbs on the outskirts of French cities feel they
      have become the victims of institutionalised racism and see the
      Jewish community as both more affluent and better integrated.

      "Anti-semitism is being viewed as commonplace because it is
      coming from a source that is supposedly more acceptable than the
      classic far right, namely the Arab-Muslim world," Mr Ferry said.

      "But we must not accept it, and heads of schools know that very

      In the light of reports that an increasing number of students are
      wearing scarfs or skull caps to display their faith, he said it
      was time to reassert the secular nature of France's state
      education system.

      "We should be able to say to all students: 'Drop the crosses, the
      veils, the caps, we are going to play by the rules of the

      Members of the government and most Jewish leaders have
      consistently said that the rising inter-community tension and
      sporadic violence are mainly the consequence of political rather
      than religious differences.

      But some foreign Jewish groups, particularly in America and
      Israel, have seen in the incidents evidence of an acceptance of
      anti-semitism and an echo of dark days of the Vichy
      collaborationist war time government, which oversaw the
      deportation of 750,000 French Jews to Nazi death camps.

      The Israeli government seemed to provide more ammunition to
      France's critics last month when it said that 2,556 French Jews
      had emigrated to Israel last year: double the 2001 figure, and
      the highest number since the Six Day war.

      But the Jewish Agency in Paris said the figures were "more about
      protecting Israel than fleeing France".

      There have been few concrete signs so far that the growing
      likelihood of war against Iraq is leading to unrest in its Muslim
      and Arab populations, and the evidence suggests that serious
      racist incidents are declining since tough new discrimination
      laws were pushed by the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.

      But President Jacques Chirac is leading the international
      opposition to a US-led attack on Baghdad, and many observers have
      pointed out that his stance is influenced at least in part by the
      fear of a potential Arab backlash at home if France is involved
      in an eventual war.
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